THE Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), an organization of subsistence fisherfolk, said planned amendments to the Fisheries Code are likely to favor commercial fishing companies.

The amendments “will certainly benefit owners of commercial fishing vessels who will be institutionally allowed to conduct large-scale fishing activities inside the 15-kilometer municipal waters intended for small-scale and subsistence fisherfolk,” Pamalakaya said in a statement.

During his second State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. sought Congressional support to further amend the Republic Act No. 10654, or the Amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines.

It was recently amended to include rules to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF). Trade concessions the Philippines enjoys with the European Union depend on Philippine compliance with a number of environmental and labor rights conventions, one of which requires signatories to crack down on IUUF.

“Our Fisheries Code must be revised to incorporate and strengthen science-based analysis and determination of fishing areas. This approach will protect both the interests of our fisherfolk and our fisheries and aquatic resources,” Mr. Marcos said on Monday.

“To this end, we will seek the support of Congress to amend the Code to guarantee sustainable development of our fisheries sector in harmony with environmental balance,” he added.

Under the law in its current form, commercial fishing vessels are only allowed to operate outside the 15-kilometer limit for municipal waters.

Pamalakaya said that the decision to amend was “the result of the continuous lobbying of big fishing firms (seeking) to operate within municipal waters.”

“There can be no ‘harmonization’ between the municipal fishers and commercial fishing vessels because the latter outcompete the traditional and backward methods of fishing,” the group said.

Groups such as Oceana and Samahan ng Mangingisda – Bataan earlier expressed doubts over the fresh amendments, saying that the last round of rule changes has not been given adequate time to be enforced effectively.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said it will issue a statement regarding the proposed amendments. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera